The curse of Early Access

We know the positives of Early Access. You can release your game early, you can get regular feedback, you can iterate and improve the game with the community.

We’re three years in with Rust’s Early Access. We’ve put out updates every week for over 150 weeks, and the community have come to expect them. The updates have become part of a weekly routine for tens of thousands of people around the world.

STILL in EA??

Occasionally we get complaints that we’re still in early access. It’s hard for us to comprehend what they’re actually complaining about, but they do make us realise that we’ve forgotten that we are in Early Access.

Early Access means different things to different people.

Do you want us to come out of early access and never update it again? Do you feel like we’ve just been fixing bugs for 3 years, and should be done by now? Do you think that pressing the button on Steam’s backend that takes us out of Early Access will change the game in some way?

Avoiding The Cycle

We’ve been in a feature creep cycle of bullshit for a while. We’ll ask ourselves the question “what needs to happen before we leave EA” and the more we think about it the bigger the list of ambitions gets.

In the old days feature creep was finite because game developers had a deadline. They had to print the game onto a tape, or disk or disc and send it out into the world, at that point it was done. We don’t have that luxury now.

The temptation is to think of leaving Early Access as a declaration that the game is finished, but I don’t believe that’s what it means.

Ready To Leave

To me it comes down to a single question:

“If early access didn’t exist – would we release this game?”

Once you put it in these simple terms, it’s easy to answer. We definitely would have released it by now. We obviously wouldn’t have stopped updating it yet (and we don’t plan to stop updating it after we leave EA), but it would have been on Steam by now.

So our plan is to add a bit more help to the game (so first time players can actually open the inventory menu without reading guides on the internet), and then quietly slip out of Early Access.

9 thoughts on “The curse of Early Access

  1. “Do you think that pressing the button on Steam’s backend that takes us out of Early Access will change the game in some way?”

    No it certainly does not change your game, but i see games like space engineers, full of bug’s, slow process, bad multiplayer and the list goes on. EARLY Access mean you get early access to a game you think has potential and ppl actually paying for the “potential” of the game, helping you make it come true by paying your bills. But this has gotten to a trend where even after years and severely broken builds companies hide under the EA coat to justify their poor development. Not only that, after 3 years for example you cannot really claim “early access” to a title with hundreds of hours of feedback from community.

    I think it is misleading to sell a game in EA if it has been there for years, where is the point to stop and say: “this is the base, the community made clear what they want, we made clear what we want, we now slow down the updates to make more fundamentally bigger content updates (you may know these as expansion packs in the early days)”.

    I had great time on some EA titles, for sure! but by far, the worst title, space engineers, is sometimes just pushing out a simple hotfix as an weekly update, just for the sake of having a weekly update. I’ve seen patchnotes 2 lines long as a weekly update, while you could have pushed the fix for something breaking something a day after, instead they waited a whole week just to have an update that week. I’m sure some other companies do that too.

    And let’s not even remotely talk about DayZ Standalone, what a joke and just outright scam.

    I think Rust is a great title, but you may understand now where those complains are coming from.

    1. I agree. Out of all the EA titles I’ve played, Rust has the *best* developers. I’ve played Space Engineers, not extensively for the reasons you’ve mentioned, but I wouldn’t mark them as the downright worst. I appreciate the work they’re doing on that game, albeit very slowly. Ever play Starforge? The underlying gameplay was extremely similar to Rust:
      Mine for resources
      craft tools
      check out irradiated area for blueprints
      build a base and defend it from other players
      raid other players
      kill animals etc…

      I bought that game in alpha and sunk many hours into it, everyone was talking about when we were going to move to beta and the next update. It never came, the devs abandoned the project completely. I’m still pretty salty about it along with a lot of other folks. They recently announced that they would take it down from steam (three years later) and make it available free. Follow this link and see the comments section here: http://steamcommunity.com/games/227680/announcements/detail/501424872772325206

      I think the Devs of Rust are doing a phenomenal job at putting every other EA title out there to shame and have plenty of faith for the future. If FP wants to stay in EA and make major feature adjustments that’s fine by me.

  2. But to me EA means features will change. Rust has changed directions several times, if I bought a game not in EA, I would be expecting to buy a game with features that stay the same. While Rust decides which way is best for it to grow, I think it should be in EA.

  3. Really? You really think that Rust is anywhere close to being release-ready as it is right now?

    Most gameplay mechanics are fundamentally broken, servers die in 2-3 days and the game has very little content, most of which boils down to looting boxes an shooting other people in the face, all while grinding for explosives to blow your neighbor up.

    If I were you, I’d stay in Early Access – at least then you’ll have a reason as to why your game is in this state after 3 years of development.

    1. Could you please list every gameplay mechanic, and then proceed to tell me how at least 51% of them are fundamentally​ broken – kind regards, Anon

  4. I love playing the game. I host my own server and I am thrilled to see over 5 million copies sold! at 19.99 a copy or was it 14.99 a copy? I do not remember as I bought it in the very beginning. But either way, that means this game has grossed 75 to 100 million in sales – that is awesome and also at the same time makes me realize I should have gotten in to this field lol I will be lucky to make 1 million in my entire life. Keep up the good work Garry.

  5. My RUST experience has been truly great. Not just the game but the close knit, often hilarious but generally toxic community. Redditors in particular, baying for a dev sacrifice if they dont get their own way.

    The best thing though? The frankly unbelievable engagement of the devs with the players, it’s been so impressive that they listen so closely to us and often to their detriment e.g. GUYZ, PLZ GIV US XP SYSTEM follow swiftly by GUZ, PLZ REMOVE XP SYSTEM.

    From the ‘Early Access’ argument I think you guys would have been better served not listening to us, making your own plan and releasing your game. But that would not have been fun would it? As another poster has highlight the game cost me €19.99 and I have over 500hours played since 2014, other players would laugh heartily at that with their 2000+ hours on record. Think about that value though, for all their complaining they play, alot.

    I only play a little here and there these days as the game is not conducive to a life with small kids but even though I dont play much I still read the devblogs weekly and see what people are saying on Reddit. RUST to me is about much more then a game now, it’s been and continues to be a fun experience.

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